Reducing CO2 Emissions


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“Coal is, and will continue to be, a major source of the world’s energy and emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2)” (report: “Preparing to Capture Carbon”; Science Friday journal).  1

‘Clean’ Coal Technology

An industry group, known as FutureGen Alliance, has committed $400 million to a futuristic power plant project over 10 years.  2

However, the American-taxpayer-funded portion of the project may be 75% or more of the total cost which appears to be soaring (curr. est. is $1.8 billion (US). “Congress is giving the program $75 million this year, $33 million less than the administration had wanted. Committees overseeing Energy Department spending expressed concern that FutureGen was siphoning money away from other clean-coal programs.”  3

graphIn this first phase of the energy plant’s hype cycle, proponents counter that it’s “supposed to be virtually pollution-free and produce both electricity and hydrogen – while its carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, is to be captured and stored deep underground.”  2

CCS: Carbon Capture and Storage

“A host of scientists, politicians, business leaders and even environmental groups…want to lower the amounts of CO2 going into the atmosphere by capturing and storing it.”  1

“Capturing CO2 from coal plants requires special processing of the coal with chemicals or through a gasification process. Both processes require extra energy and boost costs by as much as 50 percent, according to Schrag. Then the CO2 has to be pressurised, transported and pumped into a deep underground location. Studies show there is potentially enough underground storage capacity, but there is limited data on whether such sites would leak and by how much. One ‘leak-proof’ storage option is injecting CO2 below the sea floor but that would be very expensive.”  1

“The world’s largest existing project…a 40-million-dollar research effort funded by Canada, Europe, Japan and the United States…has pumped five million tonnes of CO2 over four years into an old oil field in Weyburn, Saskatchewan in Canada to help pump put out more oil. The CO2 comes from a North Dakota coal gasification plant 325 kilometres away.”  1

In Norway “about one million tonnes of CO2 is pumped into saline aquifers a kilometre below the bed of the North Sea.”  1

“There are also safety issues. CO2 is heavier than air and a large gas cloud could be lethal, as happened in a natural catastrophe at Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986 that killed 1,700 people.”  1

“Aside from the many environmental impacts of the coal industry as a whole, the most controversial aspect of CCS for coal power is who is going to pay for the development and additional ongoing costs.”  1

Superior Alternatives

Mary Griffiths (senior policy analyst; Pembina Institute) says “Carbon capture and storage is not our first choice for reducing emissions” because caps on CO2 emissions, energy efficiency, renewable energy and conservation are better ways to tackle the problem.  1

(1) 2007/02/26 – GWA: Recapturing carbon won’t come cheap
(2) 2007/12/19 – Toronto Star: `Carbon-free’ coal plant planned for Illinois
(3) 2007/12/19 – HeraldTribune: Mattoon, Ill., picked for FutureGen…

Other Links:
2003/02/27 – DOE: Abraham Announces Pollution-Free Power Plant…
2005/12/06 – DOE: FutureGen Project Launched
2005/12/15 – DOE: U.S. and China…Cooperation on FutureGen…
2007/11/     – DOE: Final Environmental Impact Statement…
2007/12/19 – CBC: Plans for pollution-free coal plant move forward…
2007/12/19 – TheHill: Lump of coal a good thing, group believes
2007/12/19 – Grist: Even Santa is rethinking his position on coal


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